By moving to Nutanix, SCU was able to:
- Automate platform deployment and network configuration for DevOps teams
- Shorten the time to deploy key test environments from several weeks to 15 - 30 minutes
- Reduce DR failover time from several days to 10-25 minutes
- Increase core banking application performance
- Simplify IT infrastructure management
- Reorganize the IT Operations to be more business focused
- The existing Infrastructure was slowing the modernization of SCU IT
- Outages were becoming more frequent in the legacy environment
- Existing systems were slow and difficult to manage
- Teams were focused on technologies, not the business
- The aging 3-tier infrastructure was due for a refresh
- The cost of refreshing the 3-tier systems was far too high for the value obtained
A complete refresh of the entire compute and storage environment, as part of a comprehensive infrastructure modernization effort, including:
- Nutanix Hybrid Cloud, including:
- Acropolis, including AHV virtualization
- Calm Platform Automation to support DevOps
- Nutanix Flow, a foundation for a zero-trust security environment
- Nutanix Frame, to modernize VDI
- Leap, to automate disaster recovery
- Prism Pro, as part of the AI Ops initiative
- HPE ProLiant DX Servers
Servus Credit Union ─ A Noble Purpose Company
Servus Credit Union (SCU) has grown substantially since its roots were established more than 80 years ago with the Mangan Credit Union which opened in 1938. The credit union has now grown to serve approximately 380,000 members through more than 100 branches located in 59 communities across Alberta, Canada. Servus provides its members with a full line of secure financial services and has $17.3 billion in assets. The credit union’s success is well recognized around the world, having just earned the honor of being ranked #2 in Canada on Forbes' 2021 list of the World’s Best Banks.
“We are driven by our noble purpose to shape member financial fitness. With this purpose, we're focused on our member-owners and their financial well-being in everything we do,” explained Ray Welshman, Senior VP of IS Enablement at SCU. “As a credit union, we not only share our profits with our members, do everything we can to positively contribute to the communities we serve.”
Welshman served as SCU’s director of IT infrastructure and operations ten years ago. He then moved on to modernize the IT deployments at several other large Canadian institutions and enterprises before retiring in 2019. Later that same year, SCU reached out to Welshman to see if he would be willing to step out of retirement to help modernize their operations infrastructure and services.
The initial driver for SCU’s Infrastructure Modernization Project was refreshing the existing infrastructure, automating DevOps, and increasing system-wide ease of use. SCU’s core banking applications needed a performance boost as well. “Servus like many organizations was running on the standard 3-tier infrastructure that was deployed in their data centers in the past,” said Welshman. “We came in and did a full assessment of the current environment for the refresh. The plan consisted of 12 separate projects, including a replacement of all networks, firewalls, servers, storage systems, and desktops. It was a full upgrade across the board.”
Preparing for the Refresh
“Servus is a successful credit union. That is thanks to prudent cost management and a focus on building strong capital reserves so we can continue to support our member-owners and bring value to their banking experiences with us.,” continued Welshman. “With that approach in mind, we considered just refreshing the existing infrastructure, but upgrading the 3-tier environment would have required a massive investment. In addition stitching all the legacy systems together was likely to bring a number of challenges down the road. We wanted to find a solution that we could invest in for the long-term. That’s when we decided to look at hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) technology.”
Welshman then conducted thorough research on the available HCI options. “Nutanix had great industry ratings, including top reviews from Forrester, and they were also listed as a Leader for Hyperconverged Infrastructure Software in the Gartner Magic Quadrant. When I looked at what other financial institutions and what our competitors were doing, I discovered that the Big 5 banks in Canada were investing in Nutanix as well. As a final step, I called several of my colleagues in the banking industry, and they all recommended Nutanix for our Infrastructure Modernization Project.”
Servus Credit Union works closely with Edmonton-based Reliant Technologies Solutions Group, an IT services organization that has made Nutanix the focus of its hyperconverged infrastructure business for many years. Representatives from Reliant and Nutanix conducted a presentation of the Nutanix solution for Welshman and his team. The demo was impressive, according to Welshman, so they made the decision to run a test to verify the benefits. They moved forward with an economic analysis (TCO) and technical due diligence, and eventually selected the Nutanix platform.
Deploying Nutanix on HPE DX hardware
Servus Credit Union made its first Nutanix purchase in November of 2019 and deployed the Nutanix Hybrid Cloud software on HPE ProLiant-DX servers. “The Nutanix and HPE DX partnership was made in heaven,” stated Welshman. “It’s a really good example of software and hardware working seamlessly together.”
SCU has now moved all of its key applications and databases onto Nutanix and have structured the workload clusters into disaster recovery tiers. All workloads are mirrored across SCU’s two data centers with similar infrastructure in each location, using Nutanix Xi Leap for disaster recovery between data centers.
Faster Processing and Failover Times
Welshman and his team are very happy with the performance of the integrated Nutanix and HPE DX solution. “The overnight processing cycles on our core banking systems are so much faster now,” Welshman reported. “By moving to Nutanix, we are gaining over 20 hours of ‘processing time’, translating to about 3 hours in ‘physical time’, every single day! Failovers are also faster. It used to take us several days depending on application to failover our systems. We just did some failover DR testing on Nutanix, and it now only takes 10-25 minutes.”
Using Nutanix Calm
SCU is using Nutanix Calm to add application-centric IT automation, native application orchestration, and lifecycle management to the Nutanix and HPE DX environment. “Before using Calm, the time to build out new environments was quite lengthy,” explained Welshman. “We were using Octopus to deploy new releases, however, all environments were still being built manually. The entire process took about three weeks.”
SCU has now integrated Azure DevOps, Nutanix Calm, and Octopus. “We use Azure DevOps for creating features, DevOps initiates Calm to create the infrastructure and deploy platform apps and networking, and then Octopus deploys that application. With Nutanix, we can now deploy test environments in just 15 minutes. As a result, we are getting new features into our core applications much faster.”
More Frequent Releases
“In the past, we had a single pre-prod environment for our developers, and they would have to line up to deploy their ‘gold code’” explained Welshman. “As a result of having to wait their turn to get code into pre-prod, our developers were only able to release new versions every 3-5 months, with the Nutanix platform we can now release simultaneously and deliver regular releases monthly for fully integrated as well as when we need to. "
With Nutanix, SCU is now doing fully integrated releases every month and individual releases daily or weekly. There’s no line-up for developers waiting for pre-prod, so the path from development to disaster recovery is much smoother. With Nutanix Calm, Servus has implemented a true DevOps culture within its Ops and Dev teams. The integration of Azure DevOps, Servus's Continuous integration (CI) and Continuous delivery (CD) culture has rapidly shortened the development and test cycles.
Improvements Quality and Security
Using Nutanix Calm on the DevOps side has also led to better application quality and security. “We now have consistency in every iteration, because we’re incrementally improving everything from a common base,” added Welshman. “We are also seeing benefits from a security perspective, since we are able to script the security and bring it in earlier in the development process.”
“The capital savings we obtained by going with Nutanix were huge,” admitted Welshman. “We were able to recoup a significant amount of our IT budget over three years with the Nutanix hyperconverged infrastructure, compared to the much higher cost of refreshing all of our 3-tier systems at once.”
“By moving to the Nutanix software and HPE DX systems, we have built a much more reliable IT foundation for the organization. The Nutanix and HPE infrastructure is keeping our credit union’s applications running more reliably, around the clock.”
Transforming the IT Operations Organization
“Our Infrastructure Modernization Project wasn’t just about deploying the new infrastructure and what we are doing with it. It has enabled us to examine our overall vision for how we run our technology and services,” said Welshman. “After the Nutanix infrastructure was put in place, we reorganized our IT Operations leadership team to take better advantage of our new capabilities. We now have a senior IT manager who is responsible for all of the environments and automation from end-to-end. We also created the role of senior manager of AIOPS so we can take advantage of all of the valuable data we’re getting from our new systems.”
Welshman and his team were able to complete the entire Infrastructure Modernization Program in just under a year. “It would have taken at least 3–4 years to update all of the legacy infrastructure. Even then, we wouldn’t have achieved all of the performance improvements and new capabilities we gained with Nutanix,” said Welshman.
“When I first presented the modernization plan to SCU’s stakeholders, no one would believe me that it was possible,” admitted Welshman. “I told them we’d be able to failover our core applications in ten minutes, dramatically speed overnight processing, and achieve push button deployments of full environments to the datacenter or cloud, but they were very skeptical. This was understandable given that infrastructure and technology couldn’t do any of that only a few years ago. Convincing everyone it could be done was my biggest challenge with this project, but we’ve now proven what's possible using the Nutanix Hybrid Cloud infrastructure.”
Welshman and his team have now completed a full DR test and failover of the credit union’s core banking system successfully on the Nutanix platform. “That was a huge milestone for us" As a result of all of our tests and real-world observations, we have a lot of confidence in Nutanix and the HPE DX systems,” concluded Welshman.